How to tell if a question is appropriate
Asking questions is usually a means to an end. You need information, the person you’re speaking with (hopefully) has answers. However, while this works great for “What time does the store close” or “What is your favourite book?” it gets sticky when you veer into personal territory, says Sarah Epstein, MFT, a relationship therapist. Many people may think they’re just making “polite conversation” by asking questions of the other person but they are actually coming across as intrusive or judgmental, she says.
How do you know the difference? “A good rule of thumb is that polite people always think about the impact of their words instead of only thinking about the information they want to learn,” she says.
You’re so cute, why are you still single?
“Thoughtful, polite people don’t ask about a person’s relationship status because they know that it can be a sensitive subject for many,” Epstein says. The other issue with this question is the word “still” – something you should try to avoid because it comes across as inherently judgmental in any personal question, she adds.
Why don’t you have kids yet?
Polite people never ask about reproduction because they know that a person’s choice whether or not to have children can be a very touchy subject, laden with potential landmines, Epstein says. “These types of questions often lead to hurt feelings, particularly for those who struggle with infertility or those who have chosen not to have children but continually receive questions about their decision,” she says.